Write This Down: Arete Aims To Innovate Traditional Journaling

UNC undergrad Rob Sullivan is developing an app called Arete that is a modern take on keeping a physical journal.

As UNC focused more and more on its community’s mental health last fall, UNC sophomore Rob Sullivan was inspired to develop a more modern approach to journaling. 

While taking 17 credit hours, working at the campus IT desk and helping lead two clubs, Sullivan somehow found time to develop a new goal-setting app—Arete. 

For the last year—after closing his textbooks and logging out of UNC’s edtech platform, Sakai—Sullivan has used his free time to develop Arete. It’s a mobile-based platform that visualizes a person’s achievements and aims to motivate its users to improve various areas of their life through affirmation and reinforcement. 

“Being able to create micro goals and track yourself online is a great thing to do in lieu of a physical journal,” Sullivan said.

While inside the app, a user can set goals for themselves in various categories from finance to family. They can then track whether they’ve completed their daily goals and see their progress in a data visualization. Users can do all this while also being given reminders and affirmations to help them succeed in these goals.

“The hope is that you’ll be able to track how much you’ve completed and see your positive trends, all to improve your confidence,” he said. 

Currently, Sullivan said he and his co-founder Joe O’Connell are trying to “tie up loose ends” before rolling out the software onto Apple’s App Store and Google Play. Then he plans to shift from coding to marketing and momentum. Although still in the early stages, Sullivan eventually plans to monetize.

He also said he attributes much of the current success of the app to his mentorship from UNC professors and community members at Launch Chapel Hill, where he recently participated in Cohort 21 of Launch’s accelerator

Sullivan is especially appreciative of campus-famous Kris Jordan, a popular UNC computer science professor.

“His passion for computer science and exploring new things definitely rubbed off on me during lecture last year,” he noted.

Another factor that has contributed to Arete’s development is the motivation and friendly competition between Sullivan and O’Connell. 

“It’s been an amazing opportunity to grow alongside my friend as a coder and watch what he’s been able to do,” Sullivan said. “I tip my cap to him. He’s an incredible coder.”

Sullivan also noted his status as a student has given him the freedom and confidence to explore app development and he’s grateful for the insight he’s been able to receive. 

“It definitely tells me that I’m on the right path in terms of pursuing a career in computer science,” he said. “And it’s also sparked more entrepreneurial interest.”

As Sullivan and O’Connell continue to hammer out the details of the app, their next step is to roll it out to the public. 

“My dream is to see a stranger using the app and having a positive experience,” Sullivan added. 

But rather than focusing on monetary success, Sullivan said he hopes the app will be able to benefit mental health and wellness services for his community in a modern and innovative way.